A Stroll Through Maple Hill


The city of Huntsville, Alabama, has held the annual Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll for I don’ t know how many years a long time. I’ve wanted to go but it hadn’t ever worked out … til this year.

First, let me tell you how I feel about Maple Hill Cemetery and maybe then you’ll appreciate a little more what finally making it to this event means.

This is the largest cemetery in my city. Some source say it’s the largest cemetery in the state. 100 acres. More than 80,000 people are bured there. As a kid we would drive past it and went on and on and on for what seemed like eternity.

It’s where everybody who’s anybody is buried.

It’s where I want to be buried. Not because I’m anybody special in the big picture, but because I’m from here and the cemetery has great local significance. I like the idea of someone, hundreds of years from now, seeing a marker with my name on it, wondering who I was and what I did and doing research to find out. The idea of being appreciated long after I’m gone.

Maybe someday I’ll even be portrayed in the Cemetery Stroll.

Which brings me back to the purpose of this here post and that was to talk about the Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll.

As I said, this was my first year to go and I thought I knew what to expect.

I was mostly right.

Remember that little kid in Sixth Sense who said “I see dead people”?

It’s not like that.

What it’s like is local historians, actors, TV personalities and even the county sheriff take on personas of people buried in the cemetery and talk, kinda from the grave, telling about the life and death of their person.

I thought the boys — 10 and nearly 8 — were old enough to handle the history portion in favor of walking around in a cemetery. Boys should appreciate the creepiness of a cemetery right? Especially in October, so near to Halloween.

But no, I was wrong. They were bored from the time I told them we were going.

Not even knowing one of the actors or the trolley ride from the parking lot at a nearby church to the cemetery gates was enough to interest them, really.

We weren’t even in the cemetery one minute when they were already asking “Can we go yet?” or saying “This is boring.”

I said, “Next time I’ll get a sitter and y’all can stay home,” to which the smart-alleck 10-year-old said “Is it too late to get a sitter, now?”

So moving on, there are more than 80 graves with actors to visit and the stroll only lasts two and a half hours.

Do the math.

There’s no way you could see all 80.

In fact, I was told to make sure and see the presentation about Lily Flagg, a famous Hunstville cow, and it was there that Ron Cooper, the man acting as Samuel B. Moore (Lily Flagg’s owner) gave the best cemetery stroll advice ever:

You can’t see it all in one year so come back year after year and see it blocks at a time so you know year after year which blocks you’ve seen and which blocks you haven’t.

Great advice.

I saw only two and a half presentations.

But not all was lost. I enjoyed the two (and a half) presentations that I saw, enough that I want to come back next year.

And this time I just might leave the kids at home.

Note: Just because my kids weren’t the best sports about going this year doesn’t mean your kids will be. The cemetery stroll is actually very kid-friendly with all the actors and actresses dressed in interesting period costumes, lots of guys in military wear, some with guns and muskets. A small band played period music and the Lily Flagg stop is a guy dressed in a furry cow costume. So certainly, it can be a family-friend thing. Bring the babies and the toddlers in strollers. It has the potential to teach kids about our local history and an opportunity to teach cemetery etiquette too.

If you go:

The Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll is sponsored by the Huntsville Pilgramage Association and held in October. The event is free but donations are collected and used to restore and preserve the cemetery’s headstones and monuments. Parking is very limited. Park at Jackson Way Baptist Church and ride the city trolley to the cemetery gates for free!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s